Rise of Glie Chapter 11
Previous: Rise of Glie Chapter 10: Back to Work
FHD Remix: The Rise of Glie
Chapter 11: Laid to Rest
"Iroka Kasei," Stanley says, unsure how to continue, "...was someone ... for a time of crisis, of the recovery from the battle."
A casket is ready to be lowered into the grave. It isn't pretty, made of scrap wood and irregularly shaped, held up by frayed half-inch rope. But it does have a beautifully done ribbon wrapped around it, with a bow holding a carefully made bundle of flowers above the body's heart.
"He wasn't good with names," Stanley says to stall for time. Almost everyone chuckles, probably because Kasei used a wide variety of epithets to cover up his failing memory. "He led a community without a name for sixteen years. Our old name is forbidden, all the ancesters from ... can I still say cube?"
Keepsie hands him the ornament from Western University's devastated monument, the dirty, but undamaged Soul Cube replica.
Aware recoils. "My dream," he whispers to Shiden.
"I'm not surprised, brother," Shiden whispers back, trying to keep their conversation from disturbing Stanley's ceremony. The four haibane are huddled together, all dressed in working clothes, but with black veils draped over their wings. Most of the town is present, all have found something black to wear, but their clothing belies the formality of the occasion. To someone chancing upon it unaware, one would probably think it was an emergency, an interruption of a normal day.
"He reigned over the space between two cities," Stanley pauses, "If you'll allow me to say it one last time."
Many, but not all nod. Almost everyone is older than forty, but those younger than thirty don't. A name most don't remember.
"We leave behind Kikotsu no Haibi (気骨の配備)," he drops the Soul Cube into the grave, "and advance into the dawn of a new era. Our new city will be called Glie (グリ)," he sheds a tear. "It is best that we leave behind our strange glories, and our strange evils. Our children needn't know what lies outside. Our wall stands, and the ground has been still for sixteen winters. The light shines the Saturday after each winter solstice as a promise that we will never see such horrors within our sanctuary." He then adds, "as long as we keep our silent evening and let the bell nuts read our deepest thoughts."
Stanley then says, "There is something else that must go into this hole. Our Ashfeather Sorrow, could you please do us the honor."
Aware's gaze shifts from the bottom of the grave, where the Kikotsu no Rittae ornament hides in the darkness, to Stanley's eyes looking directly back at him.
"Come," Stanley says, waving his arm, "Please, my friend, if I may call you that."
Aware carefully treads around from the side near the foot of the grave from the four haibane.
"I hope all of you know their names, come," Stanley beckons, "Our Haibane. Glie's Haibane, none are from the Rittae, their wings have never bit the air to fly. Come. This is Ashfeather Sorrow. Ashfeather Steel. Ashfeather Flash. Ashfeather Heart."
Once Aware is within arm's reach Stanley offers him a bundle of pages, "I'm sure this comes as a surprise to you all, but it so that Glie may never witness the devastating wrath of the river unleashed as it was during the battle because we were too proud to see our errors when they were pointed out to us."
Everybody's confused. "The Haibane of today are brought into our world, into our lives, from cocoons ... resurrected from a life in the worlds of old, and brought into ours each for his own special purpose, which they will do ... if we allow them to," Stanley explains. "Aware is the first haibane to emerge since the battle. Today is his eighth day in this world."
Pressing the plans into his hands, Stanley says, "Kasei and I worked on this design for the new aqueduct for three years. Six draftsmen, all human, all self-trained and inexperienced. None of us truly knew engineering. Even though Aware's been with us only six days, we've all seen his ... experience at construction, and at leadership. What would it be? Ten, twenty ... maybe thirty or even forty years?"
"I have no idea," Aware says timidly, "I remember only how to do things, not where or how I learned them."
"But you know, don't you, Aware," Stanley says, "what all our hard work on these plans ... You know what it's worth. Please, show us," he gestures to the grave.
Everybody cringes, none more than Aware as he holds now the plans he saw on the first day he visited the line.
"Oh, no," Jones says, "Stanley, are you serious? How could he possibly know anything?"
Aware flips through the pages. They were indeed written by people who did not know what they were doing.
"Stanley," Jones says, "You're trusting a haibane? You told me of the battle, your story of how-"
"And I know!" Stanley cries, "those without wings could not have done a better job. Janice," he nods to her, "has a story too."
"She got more kills than I did," Shiden says, looking Jones right in the eye.
He puts his hands gently on Aware's shoulders, "Please, put behind you everything Kasei and I said that was mean. I'm sorry. God brought you here to help us."
"Is it really that bad?" Hagane whispers.
Aware lets go of the pages Stanley handed him, and like the Cube, they fall past Kasei's body into the grave.
"The river will, as before, return to the same course it once had," Stanley announces, "We will be halting work on the aqueduct until next spring, to give our new friend time to complete his design." Turning to Shiden, he says, "We still need all the blocks and shards of stoneforge we can get, so your job hasn't changed, Shiden."
"So now what are the rest of us doing?" Jose asks.
"The Haibane have been serving us quietly and faithfully for sixteen years," Stanley says, "and we have treated them as little more than animals. I remember all the crap Hagane had to take from us for three days just to visit his Old Home for just one morning, on a hunch that someone had appeared there. He went out carrying-" he gently taps Aware's halo, triggering it distinctive ringing sound, "this."
"You think they deserve better?" Yulie growls.
"The rules are still in place," Stanley says, "Their failure is not without penance, and they should, like the rest of us from our fathers seven thousand years ago, carry the curse of that failure. But they do deserve our respect. The Western University, now their Old Home still stands, and is badly damaged, but safe."
Aware seems confused. He thinks the buildings need, at the least, a good inspection before they are livable.
"Everything they will possess henceforth is not new," Stanley says, "Only items those without wings no longer need. That includes two buildings," he adds a chuckle, "if you count Old Home as one. The other is the ... Temple of the Ashfeather Federation ... I'm sure they could find some use for a roofless old Defense Tower."
"What do they deserve?" someone grumbles.
"Just until the harvest," Stanley says. "Two months for sixteen years and a new dyke that will last over a thousand," he gently squeezes Aware, "if you can pull it off."
"We let the four of them work only half a day a week for themselves for sixteen years," Janice explains, "It took them six years working like that just to get to the Temple's door, only to have just as much mud fall into the building as they cleared away from it. I've been a victim of the wall's disease. The bradford garden belongs in that building, not just for them, but for all of us. I think if four hundred of us help, it'll take us a week."
"But they're haibane!" Yulie cries.
"We're only human," Janice says, "What makes us better than them, if you can tell me?"
"There is yet nothing in there that is private for us," Hagane says to Stanley as the argument between the ladies deflates, "but Old Home is covered in light leaves. Let us gather them while you lead the cleanup of the Tower. Keep anything you want; anything you think will be useful. The light of the wall fried all the weapons, probably because we'd be using them on each other if we had no foe to unite against."
He turns to Yulie, "There are a few things in Old Home which still work. The boiler in the North Wing, and some electronic clocks."
"I don't want to remember the old world," Yulie complains.
"Then, I'll come back for you after," he sighs, "we wipe away the shadows."
"Shadows?" Yulie asks.
"Many died there during the battle," Shiden says softly, "Most were haibane or children. The enemy's poison vaporized their bodies, leaving the barest traces of soot to outline where they fell."
"No, I don't want to see that," she gasps, "No we don't ... We without wings don't need that anymore, do we Stanley?"
"You're right, Yulie," he says. He turns to the four haibane and says, "We know where the floor of the Temple is. Go to Old Home, do with it as you see fit." He puts his hand on Hagane's shoulder, "I think we can say that we're done with it. Go, and make it your own."
Janice rubs the scar on her hand, remembering how she got it from Samurai's damaged armor. "Shiden," she says, "You'd know, right? ... Is there anything dangerous in the Temple? Do we need one of you with us?"
"Only one thing," Shiden says, "Do not open the back door. Stanley, you remember where it is. Its latch has been welded solidly into the wall, the handle vaporized. If it's like the others I've seen, you probably can't even find it. I had cleaned out all the stoneforge flooring for the dyke and the weapons, computers, armor, everything else is buried it west of the entrance marsh, where I know there's a stoneforge barrier that will never let it pollute neither the river, nor the Flight Well."
"So, all we'll find is mud anyway?" Stanley asks.
"Well, pots, and pans, old hot plates, our tents," Shinzoo says, "nothing more dangerous than a kitchen knife or more useful than a clothing iron."
"I could use another iron," Janice jokes as the city's only surviving tailor.
They feel a thump in the ground. They turn to see that the old rope had parted, releasing Kasei's body into the grave.
"Oh," Stanley says.
"He hated funerals," Hagane says, "He'd want us to get his over with." He grabs a shovel, "Come on."
Next: Rise of Glie Chapter 12: Our Peace